Bailing out the Port

By Natalie Shippen | Nov 20, 2012


It is claimed that the Planning Board's approval of a 55' height limit for Harbor Square will not set a precedent for similar action on the nearby areas of the old Safeway property, Skipper's and the WSF parking lot. That's a doubtful claim.

The four properties have common characteristics. The City itself includes them all in the same "Downtown Master Plan District" defined as the "properties between SR 104 and the railroad."  That qualities them for "transit-oriented development" (high density).

The District location near "existing taller buildings" (none except the Ebb-Tide) is used to justify a future design that "provides for higher buildings."

So all four properties are grouped in a District that proposes higher buildings with greater density.

All of the District structures sit on a swamp. Land-owners can claim that parking must be built above ground because of a high water table. That's another justification used for greater heights.

The Port Commission claims its Harbor Square buildings need replacing because they are old (1980), and of an out-of-style commercial design. The architectural style of the old Safeway store is Army Quonset Hut Circa 1941 flanked by Backyard Shed built in the early '70s.

Surely its owners could use the Port's reasoning to justify the same code changes as the Port requests.

The Port's most important reason for requesting a 55' height allowance is money. It claims it can't profitably tear down and rebuild without a new limit of 55'.

The owners of Safeway and Skipper properties can make a similar argument. The WSF  has already presented a tentative plan for a 6-story building because it needs money.

Can Edmonds bail out one public property owner and not another? Can it assist public owners and not private ones? Not likely.

If the City Council approves the Harbor Square Redevelopment Plan, there will eventually be a solid wall of tall buildings from Harbor Square to Main St.

The Edmonds City Council will hold a public hearing on the Harbor Square proposal on Dec. 4. Plan to attend and give your opinion.

Or e-mail Council members at


Natalie Shippen

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